We moved to Maui when I was eight, just about to turn nine in December of 1975. My grandparents had lived in this house for only a few years before we did, then Jack moved in when he and Mom got married in 1982. I'm sure it's true of anyone that you might not know everything about the wider area where you grew up, small, old neighborhoods, former townsites, etc. But Maui is an island so it's a bit more contained.
Being home this week I have seen two neighborhoods I've never seen before. One I knew existed, but never knew anyone who lived or worked there so never had a reason to go. The other I didn't know still existed and had never been to. It sort of blows my Maui mind.
Tuesday we were doing errands in the industrial part of lower Wailuku, towards Waiehu, and we were talking about Happy Valley because a friend of Mom's brought her some food after Jack died. The food came from Takamiya Market in Happy Valley. (Here's a cool article about Takamiya on it's 60th anniversary.) I asked if we could drive through Happy Valley as I didn't think I'd ever been there. Or if I had, it was so long ago I don't remember it at all. (I love this video. I don't speak Japanese but the images show you how very local and awesome the place is. I'm now very hungry for some kalbi and, well, just about anything on those tables!)
So we did and it's a classic little place with old shop fronts and houses. I'm sorry I didn't take any photos as we were just driving through. Takamiya is the most famous thing there, go check it out next time you are on Maui.
The other spot I'd never been to was Puunene Village, or what's left of it. Yes I've driven by the Puunene Mill a million times on the way to Kihei/Makena/Wailea. I've flown over it a million times as well. When I was a student pilot, Puunene Mill was the easy landmark on your final approach to runway 2 at OGG. You needed to be at 800 feet by Puunene Mill. In fact, a few years ago we flew Mokulele Airlines from the Big Island to Maui in the small plane and as we got to Puunene Mill I looked at the altimeter and we were bang on 800 feet. It made me smile.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the village. Yesterday mom and I were doing more errands, dropping off old paint to the paint collection/recycle place as well as taking used books to the Dirty Bookstore. Okay don't get the wrong idea. There is a free used bookstore run by the Maui Friends of the Library. Both spots are in Puunene village. Mom was driving and I had no idea where we were going except that it was "near Zippy's" so I thought both spots must be in the newer industrial area of Kahului. But then we turned left at the mill and kept going past it. I was amazed to find us in the old village, smack dab next to the mill.
There aren't many buildings left, most are part of the old school, but on the way in is a church (Note the mill smoke stacks behind):
Then the main school building:
Classic building with the wooden louvers. I've never seen wooden window louvers anywhere but Hawaii. Lihikai Elementary had them too. According to wikipedia, the building is a registered historic site built in 1922 and is used as offices now.
The rear of the school building with other outbuildings:
and the Bookstore, which is directly behind the main school building:
The nice thing is, the bookstore was really busy when we were there yesterday. It's really well stocked and organized. Great resource for Maui. (Oh and my mom's friend calls it the "Dirty Bookstore" only because it's RIGHT NEXT to the Mill and so everything gets extremely dusty, red-dirt dirty. If you live(d) here, you know exactly what I mean.)
There was one other building that looked like another church or maybe community hall or theater (?), now being used for Mill stuff:
There didn't seem to be any houses left but as we drove back past the Mill, there is this awesome building:
(I found this on Panoramio). "HC&SCo. Puunene Meat Market 1926" (HC&S stands for Hawaii Commercial and Sugar, fyi.)
I'm amazed at Mill Towns in general because places like the meat market and school are right next door to the mill itself. Not half a mile a way, but right there. The buildings behind the meat market above, that is the working mill. See map below: upper left is the mill with Meat Market, lower right is the school and village area.
And that sugar processing smell is quite distinct. Not bad really, (or I'm used to it from driving past Paia Mill for decades), kind of sour sweet. (I visited a friend in Northfield Minnesota and there is a Malt-O-Meal factory there and it smells like baking bread or at least a lovely cereal aroma, sometimes chocolaty.)
I'm still amazed at going to Puunene Village yesterday. I feel like it's a room in my house I never knew existed. Mom was surprised I'd never been there, but why would I have? in the 70's and 80's there was only the school, which had a very small student body by then, and any of the other buildings were probably just A&B (the company that owns the mill) company buildings. But I'm so happy to have seen it. I don't feel so funny about never spending time in Happy Valley. I grew up in Spreckelsville so our go-to place for local grinds was Paia or Makawao or Pukalani.
These Mill towns were really thriving places on Maui, way back when. Paia used to be jumping with many theaters and stores and shops and schools and banks. Even Spreckelsville was big at one time. Not as big as Paia or Puunene, but still a busy village. When I was in elementary school, there were still buildings along Spreckelsville road (this road becomes Stable road when you cross Hana Highway), a church and a couple houses and maybe a store or post office building. We even picked up a couple of students from there on the school bus one year. But now there is nothing but a few cement foundations.
I love that there is still so much to learn and see in my hometown.